Steph’s World Marathon Majors and Six Stars

I was unsure whether to write about my wonderful trip to Boston, the marathon or achieving six stars and my journey to get there. So I’ll start with my experience and a 101 on Boston and the World Marathon Majors. 

Someone asked me the other day if it was reasonable to have such a tough qualifying time for Boston. My rejoinder was that when I did my first marathon (reality check here: when I ran most of my marathons I felt this way) the qualification time for Boston was so out of my realm it may as well have been qualifying for the Olympics and we don’t question that. Many of my friends compete in AG Triathlon, I can’t even enter the races they compete in. I don’t consider myself hard done by because I can’t enter the Tour de France.

I hadn’t even heard about Boston Marathon, let alone the Abbott World Marathon Majors until maybe 2015/2016. I’m not sure where I heard it first, or when I decided I hoped to run them all but one thing is certain. When I read about Kathrine Switzer’s experience at Boston marathon, I was determined to run it to ‘Stick it to the Man’ (hope you’ve seen School of Rock!)

I’ll step down off my soapbox for now, because Boston is a wonderful city and I had an amazing trip.

Watch this!

In 2012 I couldn’t run to the 2km. In 2019 I ran 42.2km through a city with rich running heritage and across a finish line that some starters never crossed in the tragic events of a few years ago. From the kid that always had the sick note, to geeing up the crowds in the stands on Boylston. I’ve worked long and hard to get to that start line. Missing two previous opportunities to go to Hopkinton (The start).

For those of you who are normal, I’ll explain a little bit about the Boston Marathon. (For those obsessed with the WMM and Boston, head down to the next paragraph). It’s a point to point marathon starting in land and continuing in an almost straight line, along wide open American roads into central Boston where you take a right turn and a left turn. Onto the main city street Boylston and through the high rise and grandstands to the famous yellow and blue road. The symbol of the Boston Athletics Association and Marathon is a unicorn. So you can affectionately say you are chasing down a unicorn at the end of a yellow road. The course very gently switches between slight downhill and slight incline for almost all the race, except for some small hills in the second half. I had heard a lot about ‘Heartbreak Hill’ but I think it gets it’s reputation more from people running out of fuel at mile 18-20 then the incline of the hill.

Weirdly for someone who’s run the World’s 6 biggest city marathons, I’m not a fan of crowds. Consequently Tokyo and Chicago are my favourite out of the six, but Boston is way up there. Spectators line the whole route, but not in large droves. It almost feels as if one by one they’ve lined up on each side of the route, all the cheers seemed friendly and encouraging, as the roads are wide you can chose to run in your own zone of peace and quiet when you need to. Put this in sharp contrast to London, where not only are the roads narrow enough that you get tripped and elbowed by other runners, but when you aren’t running through boring docklands, the crowds are so thick it seems rather aggressive and overwhelming. Especially as most of them seem to have partaken in a beer marathon while you are running.

Back to Boston, again for the non-road runners among us, Boston Marathon is one of six world marathon majors. These ‘majors’ make up a league that the elites participate in each year to win the championship title. As well as elites you can also collect your six stars as an ‘everyday hero.’

All of the races have qualifying times, although some you can buy your way in or take a charity place. During Boston Marathon 2019 the 5000th everyday hero crossed the finish line – I don’t think it was me. The extra accolade does not qualify you for anything else, there is no prize money it is merely an arbitrary award, some may say a fantastic piece of marketing. It certainly worked on me. Everyone likes to feel special and I certainly felt special joining the 6 star club in Boston. I would support anyone on their journey to do so and give as much advice and recommendations as I can. Personally I didn’t want to take charity places, running is my hobby and I don’t think I could raise the sponsorship from my friends and family to do something I do week in week out. The qualification times vary for each race and for some there is a standard ballot entry (like London). The time it takes you to do all 6 races doesn’t matter, as long as you have completed the 6, and let the WMM organisers know, then you can collect your extra medal at the end of the last race. I will never be the fastest runner, over any distance. I will never be in the running for a Nobel prize or Emmy award, but for me this felt just as big. I’m sure one day I’ll have different ambitions, but being able to focus on and achieve something like this has done wonders for me.

The only change I would make to my day in Boston would be to be allowed to have a loved one or friend with me when I collected my 6 star medal. You can see from these photos just how utterly overwhelmed I was. Happy tears flowed.

Part way through the course a lady held a sign saying “today is the day you make your dreams come true.”

I made eye contact with her and smiled. It didn’t matter what time I did, that sunny day in April 2019 was the day I made that dream come true and I enjoyed every second of it.

I have many more words to write about the city of Boston, the amazing food, the people I travelled with, the things we saw and experienced, so come back for more. If you have any questions or want to hear more about something specific just let me know in the comments.

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